Monday, May 11, 2009

Daily Story 26: Status Quo

Clockwork, part 2 of 6
Part One

I remember... being twelve years old and pressing myself flat against the upper wall of the monastery while the guard walked past just below me. I remember watching the moonlight flash coldly off of his halberd as if the weapon was looking at me, but my heartbeat is the ticking of a clock and I will not allow it to gain time. Slow, even breaths. Tick. Tick. Tick. The guard continued on his way, his rhythmic footfalls counting off the seconds as he followed the same path as every night like the tiny clockwork soldier in my latest creation for the local Duke.

I dropped down from the ledge and set to work on the door. Even if my master did not give me such freedom I suspect nobody would have noticed that some of my clockmaking tools doubled as lockpicks. The door was open in eighteen seconds and I slipped noiselessly inside, enveloped by the smell of parchment and paste. I had already borrowed the historical books, reading the accounts of military battles over and over. I had no more use for them.

I walked further, to the back vault of the library where the monks kept the books of Runes. Here was a much more complicated lock. Twenty-seven seconds. I had entered the vault four times before, each time devouring one of the crumbling tomes. Page after page of symbols, each with a definition and notes from long-dead scholars. Sadly, the monks had destroyed any texts that they felt were sacrilegious and so after memorizing the known runes there was very little of interest. I tried every night, however, hoping for something more.

I finished the fifth and last book in about eighty minutes. The oldest text, it had seven runes that were not in the other books but the half of the page with names and descriptions was torn off. I pulled out my practice tablet and etched them over and over, committing them to memory.

They didn't appear to do anything, though that could be said for most runes. I went down the list in my head; the runes that symbolized various emotions were said to slightly influence mood, though I didn't feel anything. The Power rune would glow brighter the longer it was left, but that seemed useless. The Heat rune worked slightly. The Pull rune worked just enough to make a sheet of parchment slightly less likely to blow away if placed on it, and the Push rune… suddenly, my mind was on fire.

Slow, even breaths. It was like a rune had been written directly onto my brain and set alight. Ten and a half minutes to lock the vault, hands shaking, and run back to the workshop. I tore apart the clock I had been building and drew the Push rune over and over, each time smaller until I found my limit at two inches. It glowed with a pale yellow light as I etched it into the metal.

In the morning my master found me asleep on the workbench with a clock ticking away in front of me. There was no pendulum or weight. He must have looked closer and seen the glow; I woke up just in time to watch him drop it in shock. What wasn't destroyed by the fall was ground into the workshop floor by his massive boots - he threw most of it into the scrap pile, but dumped the wheel with glowing runes right into the forge.

He said it was blasphemy. Blasphemy? The monks claimed they wanted to be closer to the gods, my master said he wanted a clock that never lost time, but when presented with these things… I felt his belt slap across my back, but my heartbeat is the ticking of a clock and I will not allow it to gain time. Slow, even breaths. Tick. Tick. Tick. The flashes of pain were rhythmic, counting off the seconds. After that day he never spoke of it again and I never went back to the monastery - I had already learned everything they had to teach.

Part Three